Arts, Features

Boston’s Latin Quarter showcases art celebrating culture of Jamaica Plain

In response to street violence only a decade ago, a Boston-based artist partnered with local youth in Jamaica Plain to paint a mural of a peace dove with a message to stop gun deaths. This is one of 11 art pieces that can be found along the sidewalks of Boston’s Latin Quarter.

The self-guided audio tour proposed by high school student Sophia Thomas to accompany the Boston Latin Quarter Art Walk. ILLUSTRATION BY LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends Thursday, celebrates the contributions and achievements of the Hispanic community in the United States. In honor, nonprofit organization Hyde Square Task Force — which works to provide support for Latin cultures and communities — hosted Boston’s Latin Quarter Art Walk.

The task force is based in the city’s Latin Quarter, a cultural district located in a section of Jamaica Plain. In May 2018, the area was officially named after the neighborhood’s history of Latino residents, who largely immigrated from the Caribbean.

Stretching from the Jackson Square Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Station to Centre Street, the art walk consists of 11 murals, sculptures and other art pieces from artists in and around Boston. The art walk’s self-guided virtual tour incorporated audio recordings for attendees to learn more about the artists and artwork displayed.

Sarah Brugge, community development and events coordinator at Hyde Square Task Force,  said the organization had been planning to display local art pieces since the formation of the cultural district to help teach others about Afro-Latin communities.

“I think a lot of us walk past the murals or the sculptures, and they’re pretty to look at,” Brugge said, “but we don’t know the history of them.”

Created mainly by local Latin artists, many of the pieces are reflective of Latin culture.

One such artwork is the Taino Mural on Perkins Street. The mural depicts Puerto Rican deities and is a tribute to the origins of the Carribean immigrants living in Boston’s Latin Quarter.

In response to social distancing rules, Brugge said the in-person tours were not part of the art walk, but that these and other precautions did not make a significant difference to the overall experience of the event.

“Just asking people to take the recommended precautions of wearing a mask and keeping their distance as they’re walking outside,” Brugge said, “wasn’t a massive change but definitely an important one to keep people safe.”

Sophia Thomas, a high school student from Muriel S. Snowden International School at Copley Square, had proposed the idea of a self-guided audio tour.

Thomas had interned at Hyde Square Task Force this summer, during which they took on a task to put together a public art tour. Much of Thomas’s background research and write-ups on the art pieces became part of the online tour.

“You can read and listen to the recordings as someone would take the art walk on their own,” Thomas said. “It’s like a self-guided tour.”

Thomas, who also lives in Latin Square, said it’s important to celebrate Jamaica Plain’s culture regardless of whether it is Latin Heritage Month.

“Working on this art tour not only taught me more about Afro-Latin culture and the culture in my neighborhood, but also just in general, how much more there is to know,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot to learn not just from the art tour, but from the community in general.”

Maria Owens-Jaramillo, a freshman in Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, said cultural events like these help to teach others about various Latin American and Hispanic cultures outside of Mexico, as well as how these cultures influence artists’ work.

Celebrating Latin American heritage also helps individuals learn about their own identities while sharing their culture with others, she said.

“I wasn’t born in Colombia, my mom was,” Owens-Jaramillo said. “So being able to celebrate art like this, it helps you recognize that part of yourself.”

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